Two months ago I gave my life to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I have been praying and reading the Bible every day since becoming a Christian, but some of my friends tell me that I need to start going to church. I don’t believe that a person has to go to church in order to be a Christian. Besides, there are too many hypocrites in the church and churches are full of cliques. What do you think? Is church attendance necessary?
Dear Independent Christian,
Congratulations on your decision to follow Christ. I know that heaven is rejoicing because of your decision. I commend you for your making daily prayer and Bible study a priority in your life. Prayer is the breath of a Christian and the word of God is life. Both are necessary for a Christian to remain alive in Christ and to grow in grace and wisdom.
Regarding your question on church attendance, David, King of Israel, said that he was glad to go into the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1), so he must have seen a benefit in worshiping God in an assembly of believers. So, rather than determining if church attendance is necessary, I wish to explore with you the possible benefits of church membership and the possible benefits of attending the Bible studies and worship services offered by the church. Since I will be referring to several scriptures and quoting few of them, I encourage you to have your Bible handy so you can read these verses.
First of all, we know from Matthew 18:20 that Jesus is present whenever Christians come together. Therefore, when you attend a church service, you are in the presence of the Lord. Who wouldn’t want to be in the Lord’s presence? Why would anyone want to miss out on being in the presence of Jesus because hypocrites may be there too? Peter, James, John, and the other disciples remained in the presence of Jesus even though Judas Iscariot was there. They didn’t allow Judas’ presence to hinder their relationship with the Lord Jesus. Why should we?
Secondly, one of the main reasons to gather together with the church is to collectively worship God. True, we can worship God alone, but the New Testament is full of examples and references to the public worship of Christians. There are too many to list, but please refer to Acts 2:42-47, Acts 20: 7, Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.
Another benefit of church membership and attendance is the assistance and fellowship that is only available through regular association with other believers. One of the first things that God said after He created humans is that it is not good to be alone (Genesis. 2: 18). We need each other because we are fallible human beings who draw upon the strength and encouragement of other Christians (Hebrews. 1: 13, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, II Corinthians. 13:11, I Thessalonians. 5:11). So important is fellowship with other Christians that the concept of “independent Christianity” is foreign to scripture and contrary to the example set by the First Century church.
An additional benefit of church membership and attendance is the opportunity to learn and grow in faith and to be accountable to one another for maintaining sound doctrine and achieving Christian maturity (Rom. 15:14, Tit. 2: 3-4, II Tim. 3:16, Acts 20:28, Heb. 13:17).
Next, church membership and attendance is beneficial for providing us more opportunities to evangelize the lost and to serve others (Acts 6: 1-7, Galatians 5:13, John 13: 14). Nearly every church has organized programs that minister to the community and support missions.
Finally, we should desire to maintain regular attendance at church services because doing so is pleasing to God. Hebrews 10: 24-25 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
If you still doubt the importance of the assembly of Christians and its priority to God, read the entire book of Acts. However, with all the benefits of church attendance and membership, why would anyone want to miss out on the blessings?